February 20, 2015 § 1 Comment
Kicking off the new year’s goal of exploring more of Taiwan, Matthew and I have decided to take a weekend trip to the famed Jiufen (九份), the inspiration behind Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ and Houtong (侯硐), an old coal mining village that became a haven for stray cats. It was a relief to leave Taipei and get some fresh air. The train ride was an hour away and only costed NT.50 (about USD $2), which makes me question myself why I don’t go out into the outside world more.
Jiufen was an old gold mining town that prospered back during the Japanese occupation in the early 20th century. The town is tucked into the mountains and enjoys a stunning view of the Pacific ocean. The small area meant that the buildings are densely built, narrow roads and alleys that winds around the mountainous town.
I highly recommend exploring Jiufen at night. Mostly because you can avoid the throngs of tourists that visit during the daytime but also because the night scenes were significantly more interesting.
The quietness of the town at night was slightly eerie and surreal. Besides the random passerby or two, we didn’t come across anyone during our nighttime exploration. It felt like a ghost town, especially with the dilapidated structures and the endless rows of graves. The nighttime sounds that you grow accustomed to hearing in the city, scooters, neighbor arguments, tv sets, were nonexistent. Instead, you heard the ocean breeze and the occasional crickets chirping.
After walking through numerous dark alleys and narrow staircases, we stumbled across this brightly lit tea house:
It was just like a scene out of Spirited Away. The dark town backdrop just highlighted the bright building even more, absolutely stunning to look at.
January 15, 2015 § Leave a comment
Whether you’re a believer of creating New Year’s resolutions or scoff at those that do, it’s hard not to feel the sense of a fresh beginning as we usher in a new calendar year. Whether it’s the blogs recycling their ’10 ways to stick to your new year’s resolution’ article or your local gym pushing out discount memberships for those that are finally ready to shed some weight, the hopeful, infectious verbiage is scattered everywhere.
This year, I’ve decided to share my goals with everyone on this blog. One big part is because I want to start writing more (this new year’s cliché is killing me as I type it) and the other reason is to introduce a new and rather ambitious project that my sister and I are working on.
1. Read 12 books by the end of the year – My reading goal last year was 20 and I smugly thought that would be an easy goal to accomplish because “I’m super nerdy and I LOVE reading <3″. I finished 2014 with a disappointing 6 new books read. This year, I’m lowering my reading challenge to a (seemingly) more manageable 12 books. Feel free to recommend new reads in the comments or over at Goodreads.
2. No technology (phone or laptop) 20 mins prior to sleeping – Smartphone addiction is a real thing and it’s scary. Everyone is compulsively checking their phones, even if there’s nothing to check. Real life is beginning to resemble scenes from Her already. I’d like to curb my overage daily usage, shutting down just before hitting the sack and using that time to read seems like two birds one stone.
3. Blog once a month – Not even going to bother explaining this one.
4. Go somewhere new in Taiwan every quarter – Taiwan is a stunning island and there are still so many places I want to visit while I’m still here. There are tons of great places I’d like to visit abroad in 2015, but the grass is pretty green on this side of the fence and it needs to be frolicked on.
April 13, 2014 § 1 Comment
If you ever considered biking on the streets of Taipei, you may be bombarded with scary riding stories from locals. Most of Taipei do not have marked bicycle lanes or signals. The easy, relaxed atmosphere that bikers enjoy in Amsterdam or Copenhagen is basically nonexistent. The streets of Taipei resemble something of a battlefield, with its army of scooters, manic taxi drivers and monster buses at every turn. It’s a feat that can be daunting for bikers who aren’t comfortable riding in chaotic conditions.
The Riverside Park is the answer to that. Bike lovers can enjoy a beautiful bike lanes while seeing a different side of Taipei. Though never mentioned in popular guidebooks, hunting out bite-size adventures at the Riverside Park is by far one of my favorite pastimes. Riverside Park (河濱公園) is a city-established parkway that wraps itself around the whole Taipei city, running along the Danshui and Keelong River. It’s a quick way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without leaving the city, with extensive bike paths that can take you from southern Taipei (Xindian) all the way to the northernmost part of the city (Danshui). In addition to wide bike lanes, you will also stumble upon an assortment of parks and recreational facilities such as tennis courts, basketball courts, dog parks and more. It’s a refreshingly new way to see Taipei, as it exposes you to different facets of daily life. There are many different parks, entrances and bike rental stations scattered around the city, so it is worth checking out the full map to know which parts of the riverside you want to be exploring.
One of my favorite spots is the dog park @迎風河濱公園 where you can shamelessly pet other people’s dogs without being a creep about it.
There are also designated graffiti walls for people to tag around the park. The walls are painted white periodically, so it’s a good place to get your spray practice on.
Bikes can be rented at stations around the river for around NT. 60/hour. You have to provide a government issued ID or a NT. 2000 deposit if you don’t have an ID. Many people prefer renting UBikes (map), Taipei’s bike sharing service. The first 30 mins is free and then NT.10 per 30 mins for up to 4 hours. There are different rates for 4 hours or more, so be wary of long bike rides. You’ll need an Easycard and a functioning Taiwan phone number for the 1-time registration.
And of course the delicious food trucks and coffee stands that are available everywhere!
Have you ever biked around Taipei? Feel free to leave your stories in the comments!
October 6, 2013 § 3 Comments
Street art, the rebellious younger brother of the classical European art was out in full force yet again during my annual Europe trip last month. This time it took form in the “Do Not Enter” sign. The sign sits at the entrance of one way streets, nonchalantly denying drivers passage of entry. The seemingly mundane and predictable sign quickly turns into something unexpected and delightful for observant passersby.
Using the traffic sign as a template, the artist (Clet Abraham, is that you?) uses its original element to create a completely new symbol. The new symbol detracts the traffic sign’s original purpose and takes on a new meaning.
Street artists are like ninjas, how i the world do they put everything up without getting caught?
June 23, 2013 § 5 Comments
5. Marvel at the big picture
Like the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Grand Palace is the one must-see sight while visiting Bangkok. Once you set eyes on the palace, you wouldn’t question why it was so recommended. It’s magnificent, breathtaking and a visual feast.
4. Look closely at the details
The detail of the ornate decorations may often get overlooked by the grand architectural structures. There is a lot to look at when you visit the temples and it can be overwhelming (especially in the heat!) but it is worth taking a few closer looks at the wall. You’d be amazed by the variations of colors and patterns covering the temples. The titles of each section are vivid, beautiful and different.
Could people from the past create such beautiful work if they have the attention span of a modern person?
It’s not just the tiles though. The wall murals depicted scenes for epic stories. Even if you are unfamiliar with Thai folklore, you can easily figure out what is going on. The stories need no explanation.
It’s worth paying attention to details everywhere you go. As a tourist, it’s easier to pick up details since you are actively drinking in the new sights. If you apply a tourist-filter to your daily life at home, you often spot gems that you have never noticed before.